Bellward had unfastened the ropes binding her feet, and he and Mrs. Malplaquet between them half-dragged, half-lifted the girl (for she was scarcely able to walk) from the room.
When the door had closed behind them, Strangwise pointed to a chair and pulled out his cigarette case. "Sit down, Desmond," he said, "and let's talk. Will you smoke?"
He held out his case. A cigarette was the one thing for which Desmond craved. He took one and lit it. Strangwise sat down on the other side of a curiously carved ebony table, his big automatic before him.
"I guess you're sharp enough to know when you're beaten, Desmond," he said. "You've put up a good fight and until this afternoon you were one up on me. I'll grant you that. And I don't mind admitting that you've busted up my little organization--for the present at any rate. But I'm on top now and you're in our power, old man."
"Well," replied Desmond shortly, "what are you going to do about it?"
"I'm going to utilize my advantage to the best I know how," retorted Strangwise, snapping the words, "that's good strategy, isn't it, Desmond? That's what Hamley and all the military writers teach, isn't it? And I'm going to be frank with you. I suppose you realize that your life hung by a thread in this very room only a minute ago. Do you know why I intervened to save you?"
Desmond smiled. All his habitual serenity was coming back to him. He found it hard to realize that this old brother officer of his, blowing rings of cigarette smoke at him across the table, was an enemy.
"I don't suppose it was because of the love you bear me," replied Desmond.